Three String Cheese Incidents leave fans smiling in Tahoe

Tahoe Onstage

MontBleu is aglow during Night 2 of the String Cheese Incident’s three-night run at Lake Tahoe.
Night 2 photographs by Michael Smyth / Tahoe Onstage

Lake Tahoe may never be the same again after experiencing three String Cheese Incidents this week. Say cheese? Yes, please.

Colorado jam band The String Cheese Incident played a knockout of a show Friday in the showroom at Stateline’s MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa.

Celebrating the band’s 25th anniversary, the middle show of the Thursday-to-Saturday Tahoe rock and jamgrass run saw Cheese take the stage with the Celtic-laced instrumental “BollyMunster.”  The smooth tempo was a perfect way to get crowd’s juices flowing and joints warmed up after the bluebird ski day many fans likely enjoyed.

Predicting where the set might go was fruitless, as the boys from famed Rocky Mountain ski towns Crested Butte and Telluride cleverly meshed funk and bluegrass with the tandem of “Black and White” and “How Mountain Girls Can Love.”

The first 90 minutes of music saw everyone in the band take a turn singing lead, save for percussionist Jason Hann, who interestingly handled the vocal interjections during his and drummer Michael Travis’ late night show in the Blu Nightclub with their “scide project” EOTO.

Tahoe Onstage

Michael Kang of SCI on guitar.

The opening set could have been a full show for a lot of touring bands (you know who you are). It concluded with a jammed-out “Miss Brown’s Teahouse” before abruptly jumping off a cornice into Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On.” Many fans on the rail during the set break were doing the Nevada six-pack of three shows in Las Vegas and three in Tahoe. The diehards said it was the best set they’d seen so far after four and a half nights — at least until SCI dropped set two on them.

In addition to a great set of music, I had the opportunity to experience it in a way I had always been curious about but had never tried. The good folks at Hush Concerts were kind enough to let me evaluate a pair of their soundboard connected headphones, and, wow, what an experience.

The benefits proved to be multi-layered. First, as good as the mix was at the MontBleu Theater, and it’s a very good room acoustically, I was still able pick up detail and instrumental separation that I simply couldn’t without them. The marriage of the physical air movement of live performance, along with a clean sound mix in my head, made the experience pretty amazing.

The headphones are lightweight and comfortable enough that I forgot they were even on. A further benefit (and arguably my favorite) is they drown out those annoying concertgoers who think a show is a place for their 20-minute conversation about … let’s face it, who gives a shit. For $10, it’s a no-brainer.  Best of all, you can take them on and off and move about the venue freely as you wish.

The second act started with a harder edge than the first, courtesy of the rock-tinged “Tinder Box” and  “Close Your Eyes,” leading into the bassist Keith Moseley-led calypso hip-shaker instrumental “Mauna Bowa.” That had all five levels of the sold-out room swirling.

Keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth maneuvered the band through the new funk tune “All We Got” before a non-stop run starting with the spacey trance-rock “Land’s End,” into an exhibition of execution on “Glory Chords,” as Cheese squeezed up to double-time not once, but three times before launching “Let’s Go Outside,” with Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” sandwiched in between.

Knowing it had another night next to the big blue lake, the String Cheese Incident concluded an outstanding evening with Paul Simon’s pleasing “Under African Skies” from his Grammy-winning record “Graceland.”

— Michael Smyth

  • String Cheese Incident
    Friday, Feb. 22, 2019
    MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa
  • Set One
    BollyMunster, Black And White > How Mountain Girls Can Love, Until The Music’s Over, Way That It Goes, Miss Brown’s Teahouse > Ramble On
  • Set Two
    Tinder Box, Close Your Eyes > Mouna Bowa, All We Got, Lands End > Glory Chords > Let’s Go Outside > Sledgehammer > Let’s Go Outside, Restless Wind
  • Encore
    Under African Skies

    Night 1 photos by Larry Sabo

About Michael Smyth

Michael Smyth moved to Reno in 2007 after living more than 40 years in the Bay Area. In addition to going to live shows, he enjoys golf, skiing and fly-fishing. Check out his website

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